Governmental Affairs News

Friday, September 12, 2014

Legislators return for fall session

Legislators returned to Lansing this week for several weeks of fall session after a two-month summer break. Lawmakers did some work over the summer during three session days, one in July and two in August. The House and Senate are scheduled to meet through October 2 before heading back out on the campaign trail until after the November 4 elections.


Senate holds hearing on new fees for scrap-tire haulers

The Senate Natural Resources, Environment, and Great Lakes Committee held a hearing this week on legislation to strengthen the registration requirements for scrap-tire haulers in an attempt to crack down on dumping. The legislation, SB 941-942, creates a $200 registration fee for scrap-tire haulers (that are owned or operated independent from a scrap-tire processor) and requires haulers to obtain a $10,000 bond in favor of the Department of Environmental Quality.

The goal of the legislation is to prevent haulers from offering to remove tires from a scrap-tire generator for a lower price and then relocating them to an abandoned building or dumping ground instead of a scrap-tire processor. The bills also add consumer responsibility and increased recordkeeping to reconcile any discrepancies in the number of scrap tires removed by a hauler and received by a processor. Auto repair shops that serve customers wishing to keep old tires must have the customer sign an invoice, receipt or scrap-tire transportation record acknowledging retention of the scrap tires.


APRNs start scope-of-practice fight
The House Health Policy Committee took heated testimony this week on SB 2, legislation to clarify the scope of practice for advanced practice nurses (APRNs). APRNs currently can perform any tasks or procedures a physicians authorizes them to do. The legislation seeks to give APRNs the ability to practice all the skills they’ve learned and are educationally qualified to perform, without physician-delegated authority.

The hearing turned quickly into a fight over scope of practice between advanced practice nurses and physicians. Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) is opposed to the bill as written and said she would prefer a yet-unspecified compromise. A workgroup is set to review access to healthcare in rural areas, since that is the underlying argument between the two groups. The future of the bill is uncertain at this point, but MRA will continue to follow closely the scope-of-practice argument.
Panel considers crackdown on illegal sales of single cigarettes
The House Regulatory Reform Committee took testimony this week on legislation that would increase penalties for retailers selling single cigarettes (“looseys”) and individuals attempting to purchase them. HB 5455 would increase the fine for storeowners selling “looseys” from $500 to $1,000-10,000. Individuals who attempt to purchase “looseys” would be subject to a $500 misdemeanor fine.

The legislation attempts to crack down on what is seen in some areas as a gateway practice to other drug sales and illegal activities occurring near the store. Committee members had concerns with the individual fine and misdemeanor and expressed interest in seeing the issue treated in a similar way to liquor violations where both the storeowner and clerk are penalized.
Pharmacy Tech bill enrolled
The Senate enrolled SB 92, legislation that licenses and regulates pharmacy technicians, on September 10. The governor is expected to approve the bill, which would take effect 90 days after he signs it into law.

SB 92 allows employer-based exams as an acceptable exam required for licensure. Current pharmacy technicians could apply for a limited license to continue practicing at their current pharmacy. The technician must verify that he or she was employed a minimum of 1,000 hours in the preceding two-year period. A limited license would only be valid for technicians who remain at the same pharmacy. If a pharmacy tech is hired by a new pharmacy, he or she must obtain a full license.elections.
Other important items to note:


PHARMACY

  • Kratom Sale Ban HB 5736 - Legislation (HB 5736) to prohibit the sale to minors of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), a synthetic drug that acts like morphine, was introduced on August 27 and referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee. The legislation complements HB 5707, a bill that would add Mitragyna speciosa as a schedule 5 drug. There are no federal regulations on the substance, but the DEA includes it on a list of drugs with chemicals of concern. 
  • Opioid Antagonists - The Senate Judiciary Committee reported House Bills 5404, 5405 and 5407 on September 9. The bills allow pharmacists to dispense opioid antagonists to schools and emergency medical responders. Several technical changes were made to the bills before the committee approved them. 

REGULATIONS
  • Employee Voter Leave Time - Legislation (SB 1012) requiring employers to grant up to three hours leave time for employees on Election Day was introduced on July 16 and referred to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring, and Reinventing Committee. Similar legislation was introduced last session and did not move.
  • Fireworks - Bills to repeal the 2012 Fireworks Safety Act were introduced in both the House and Senate by minor party members on August 13. It is unlikely either set of bills (HB 5723-5724 and SB 1023-1024) will gain any traction this fall. 
  • Truck Weight Revisions - Revisions to the maximum gross vehicle weight limits for trucks were introduced on July 16 and referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. HB 5708 would limit total gross weight to 120,000 pounds or less and increase the amount of weight allowed per axel to 20,000 lbs.
  • Auto Repair Shop Registration - Auto repair shops that fail to reregister with the state within 30 days would have their registration repealed and could be subject to a fine up to $5,000 for a first offense and $7,500 for subsequent offenses under HB 5716. The bill was introduced on July 30 and referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. It is uncertain what specific problem the bill sponsor is attempting to address.
  • DDA Transparency - Downtown Development Authorities (DDAs) would be subject to new reporting and transparency requirements under HB 5718. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tom Leonard (R-Lansing), on July 30 would require each DDA to develop a website and post all authority records and documents, including board meeting minutes, annual budgets, budget audits, development plans, tax increment finance plans, a list of all sponsored and managed events, staff contact information, promotional and marketing materials and the amount of tax increment revenue captured for each taxing jurisdiction within the authority. The bill was referred to the House Commerce Committee.
  • Microbeads - SB 1027, a bill prohibiting the manufacture and sale of products containing plastic microbeads used in many body wash products, was introduced in the Senate on September 9 and referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations. A Senate resolution urging Congress to pass similar legislation was introduced on July 16 and referred to the Natural Resources Committee.
  • Paid Sick Leave - All employers would be required to offer paid sick leave to employees under proposed legislation introduced on September 9. SB 1031 creates the Paid Sick Leave Act and lays out directions for the accretion of paid sick leave. The bill would require employers to offer a minimum or 40–72 hours of paid sick leave each year depending on the size of the business. The bill was referred to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring, and Reinventing Committee and is unlikely to move this session.
  • Commercial Vehicle Information - Commercial vehicles weighing over 5,000 pounds but less than 26,000 pounds would no longer be required to display the vehicle owner's information on the truck, under legislation (SB 277) reported by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on September 9. 
  • Recycling Data - Legislation that would require recyclers (including collectors of recyclable electronics) to report the tonnage they collect annually (HB 5740) was introduced on September 9 and referred the House Natural Resources Committee. 

TAXES
  • Sales Tax Holiday – Legislation creating a sales tax holiday for back-to-school clothing and school supplies (including personal computers and sports equipment) every August, beginning in 2015, was introduced on August 27. The bill, HB 5738, was introduced by Rep. Joe Graves (R-Linden) and was referred to the House Tax Policy Committee. Gov. Snyder and the Department of Treasury have been vocal opponents of similar legislation in the past.
  • Classroom Supplies Tax Credit – Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) offered a different spin on tax-free school supplies by offering SB 1030. The bill would create an income tax credit up to $1,000 for the cost of classroom supplies purchased by a taxpayer earning less than $100,000 annually for the taxpayer’s children. SB 1030 was introduced on September 9 and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. It is unlikely to pass.
  • City Income Tax Withholding - HB 5704 would require employers to withhold city income taxes for all employees who are residents of a city that levies a city income tax. The bill was introduced on July 16 and referred to the Tax Policy Committee. It could create a headache for employers with employees living in multiple taxing jurisdictions.

TOBACCO
  • Tobacco Stamps Update – On September 9, the House Regulatory Reform Committee took a look at SB 1017, a bill that would ensure cigarette wholesalers are reimbursed for the costs of converting to new digital stamps. The language comes from the Department of Treasury, which has encountered some technical issues in issuing reimbursements. The bills are being reviewed to ensure that reimbursements will be retroactive before a vote occurs.
  • E-cigarette Vapor Tax SB 1018, which is seen as a potential compromise over the classification and taxation of e-cigarettes, was introduced in July. The bill would institute a 15 cents per 1.5 ml tax on vapor products. It also modifies the current 32 percent tax on loose tobacco to a 53 cents per ounce tax and the alternative nicotine products tax to 15 cents per 500 mg. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and has not received any hearings.

OTHER
  • Auto Dealer Fees – The House Commerce Committee held a hearing on HB 5606 on September 10. The bill would amend the state's automobile franchise law to prohibit any attempts by auto manufacturers to prevent auto dealers from charging consumers a legal fee or charge. The committee did not take a vote on the legislation.

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